Argent Minerals is readying to fight a federal government decision to make it pay back $1.4m in research and development rebates it received in the 2016 and 2017 financial years.

The junior explorer (ASX:ARD) told investors today that AusIndustry – part of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science – had issued “negative findings” for the R&D claims following a review.

This means Argent may ultimately be required to repay up to $1.4m plus penalties and interest.

Investors didn’t seem overly concerned with the news, with shares advancing 5.6 per cent to trade at 1.9c on Tuesday morning.

But Argent says it believes the R&D claims were made in compliance with the applicable legislation and intends to pursue its rights under the law.

R&D rebates are a contentious issue for junior miners after Scott Morrison, when he was the federal treasurer and not the prime minister, said he planned to cap annual refunds at $4m for companies with less than $20m turnover.

Junior explorers rely on the assistance of the R&D incentives to help them advance exploration projects, particularly when investor cash is difficult to acquire and a project is technically challenging.

It seems now the federal government is also cracking down on several industries, demanding the repayment of past years’ rebates.

Argent Minerals (ASX:ARD) shares over the past year.
Argent Minerals (ASX:ARD) shares over the past year.

The AFR reported last week that several Australian tech start-ups had also been told to repay millions of dollars in R&D incentives.

Argent says it has the right to a multi-stage review and dispute resolution process, including the right to seek an independent internal review by another state branch of AusIndustry.

It also has the right to lodge an appeal to both the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Federal Court.

Argent says it will start by requesting an independent review within 28 days.

The company has enlisted the help of an accountancy and advisory firm to assist with the review process.

Argent is exploring for precious and base metals in the prolific Lachlan Orogen region of New South Wales.

The company’s flagship project is Kempfield, where Argent has defined a resource hosting lead, zinc, silver and gold.

Stockhead is seeking comment from Argent.